V Rising

V Rising is a solid survival/crafting game with a vampire theme and mechanics. I can’t think of a good vampire pun to put here.

I like V Rising. I don’t think it’s a perfect game. But it cost $20, and I’ve played 60 hours of it. If that’s not an easy recommendation, I don’t know what is.

V Rising is a multiplayer survival/crafting game in the vein Valheim or Rust. Instead of following their lead and being in a first person or over the shoulder camera, V Rising has a top down camera much closer to something like Diablo.

And instead of being a human unlucky enough to wash up on some random island, you’re a vampire.

The vampire thing isn’t just a theme. Sure, there’s a blood meter that replaces your hunger bar. But who you drink blood from also heavily impacts gameplay. Drink blood from a worker, and you’ll harvest more resources. Drink blood from a nun, and you’ll restore health when casting spells. Drink blood from a warrior, and you can parry some incoming attacks.

Also, you burn real hard during the daytime.

The general gameplay loop of V Rising is straight forward. After you get through the game’s equivalent of tutorial, and have a simple base set up, you’ll venture out to farm materials to craft better gear. Once your gear is good enough, you can go fight stronger bosses or “V Blood Carriers.” Defeating a boss and harvesting V Blood unlocks additional spells, powers, and crafting recipes. Then you can craft better gear! But that might require expanding your base, which requires more resources. So you rinse and repeat.

Of course, when I say “harvest resources” I mean less in a “harvest crops” sort of way, and more in a “humans in the Matrix” sort of vibe. V-Rising’s combat is probably closest to Battlerite (not surprisingly, given that Stunlock made both games). If you’re not familiar with Battlerite, I’d say it feels like a slower-paced version of League of Legends. Also, damage, health and “level” is all completely dependent on the level of gear you have equipped.

I never really had that “Power Fantasy” moment that I get from games like Path of Exile. Instead, you’re limited to 3 skills from your weapon, 2 spells, and an ultimate skill. Even when you outlevel an enemy, unless the difference is absolutely massive, you can still get put into the dirt. The combat is at its best in the game’s boss fights against V-Blood Carriers. It’s at its most annoying against packs or random mobs.

I don’t have too much to say on the multiplayer, mostly because I feel like you can play the game however you want. My first 50 hours were with a few friends on a publicly-hosted PVE server. The next 10 where those same friends on a privately hosted PVP server, and now we’re not friends anymore. Jokes aside, the multiplayer works well, and many of the factors like resource scaling are configurable. If you want a comfy base building setup with some friends, you can just join or host a PVE server with 5x resources, and the ability to teleport. And if you’re masochistic, you can join a 0.5 resource PVP server. Changing the pace and flow is pretty much just a server config setting.

I don’t think the game’s perfect. There’s a whole system for binding and turning humans into vampire servants, but their utility is limited outside of equipping them with a bit of gear, and sending them out on timed missions to gather resources. While the weapons are fairly diverse, the clothing options are a completely linear path, with no build diversity other than “big number good.”

Arise reborn, my servant! Now go get me copper.

Still though, there’s a lot more thought than often goes into games like this. It’s not possible to build a base in such a way that blocks off other players from a critical resource. The number of bosses is fairly high, and despite many of them just being random humans, the actual fights feel meaningfully diverse.

I think V Rising’s greatest strength compared to a lot of the other crafting/survival games is how complete the game loop feels. In 60 hours, I think I only looked at a wiki or guide 2-3 times, and I never encountered any jank.

V Rising is $20 on Steam. It’s a pretty good time. If you’re looking for a solid survival game, or a base builder, I feel comfortable recommending it.

Ed Note: Screenshots are blatantly ripped from the Steam Store page, at time of publishing. The game’s UI doesn’t look like this anymore, though. I still think these are decent representations of what V Rising looks like, even if the lighting in the screenshots is a bit nicer.

MultiVersus

MultiVersus is fantastic. If you haven’t heard of it yet because you exclusively read Gametrodon and literally nothing else, thank you for your loyalty! You’ll be given a ranking position in the new regime. If you have already heard of MultiVersus (because you don’t live under a rock), and haven’t played it, or were on the fence about playing it, stick around and maybe I can convince you to try it.

MultiVersus is a platform fighter developed by Player First Games, and published by Warner Brothers. If you’re wondering why I’m mentioning the publisher, don’t worry. It’s relevant. But first let’s quickly talk about platform fighters as a genre. Platform fighters are, for better or worse, defined by Super Smash Brothers. If you’ve never played a platform fighter, there are few things that differentiate them from traditional fighting games.

Platform fighters, like traditional fighting games are 2D games where you use your character’s moves to hit your opponent. As someone who plays both traditionally fighters and platform fighters casually, there are two big differences. The first is that platform fighters are far more open, with mobility much closer to a platforming game. The second is the win condition. In most platform fighters, instead of each character having a set amount of HP, they have a percent value. When you get hit, your percent goes up. The higher your percent, the more knockback you take when you get hit by an attack. But no matter your percent, you don’t actually die until your opponent can knock you off the stage. Finally, platform fighters often have more characters on stage than just the traditional 1v1, and MultiVersus leans into this. The game’s primary game mode is actually 2v2, with many of the characters having abilities that buff or somehow interact with their allies.

Speaking of which. Characters!

The other thing a platform fighter needs to be good is good characters. That’s easy for Smash Bros, which might as well just be the Nintendo “Who’s Who” list for video games even if the list does have some washed up entries. (Seriously, I’m pretty sure Falco and Fox are more relevant as Smash Bros fighters than their series is. And there hasn’t been a new F-Zero game in a million years.)

This is great if you’re Nintendo, but if you have to invent your own characters, like Brawlhalla, or Rivals of Aether, or anyone else in the genre it can be rough. After all, it’s not like you can just go dig up a treasure chest of intellectual property from the 40 years.

Hey, remember how I mentioned this was being published by Warner Brothers, and said the publisher would be relevant later?

Turns out, Warner Brothers has the rights to a lot of stuff.

A lot of stuff.

MultiVersus currently has a seventeen-character roster, which isn’t huge, but let’s look at a few folks in that roster. You have Batman and Superman. You have Shaggy and Velma. You have Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, and Wonder Woman. You have Arya Stark, and Lebron James. You have Stephen and Garnet from Stephen Universe, and you have Jake the Dog and Finn the Human from Adventure Time.

If you can read that entire list without going “Wait what” or getting a least a little excited for a moment about the idea of Shaggy absolutely thrashing Batman in hand to hand combat, then please come to my apartment so I can give you your “Least Exposed to Pop Culture” gold medal. I grew up without TV, I still barely watch TV, and I know who these folks are.

Unlike Smash Brothers, though, these characters aren’t from a video game, so it raises the question “How well were they adapted?” Personally, I think they’ve done a pretty good job. Shaggy is this kinetic bruiser, dashing around the stage, doing that funky little leg zoom walk, and tossing sandwiches. Finn is an assassin, charging up these big swipes of his sword and leaping around. From the characters I’ve played, they’re all fun, with their own tricks and traps.

But this does bring up a point I want to cover: I haven’t played everyone, because MultiVersus is F2P, and that means you don’t actually get all the characters. It’s the League of Legends model, where there’s a free rotation of characters, but if you want to unlock a character permanently, you have to buy them with either in game gold, or the premium currency.

This isn’t a particularly evil implementation of F2P, but it does commit a lot of the traditional sins of the model. I don’t want to put too much energy into calling them out here, so instead I’ll give you a quick list of why I don’t like it much:

  1. Premium Currency can only be purchased in specific increments. This means you can only purchase say 1000/2000/3000 of it, but all the characters and skins cost different amounts. So you’ll always have some left over, and if you want to buy more stuff, you’ll have to buy more currency. It’s like the evil video game version of the XKCD nacho cycle.
  2. Skins are expensive, like 15-20 bucks a pop.
  3. There’s a battle pass/daily quest system, so you have that whole FOMO structure, and since a lot of your gold generation is linked to leveling up characters, it’s easy to tell the flow of gold will shut off pretty quickly.
  4. Perks are a gold sink for F2P players.

Oh, that’s right! We haven’t talked about Perks yet. Lets cover them quickly.

Each character in Multiversus has four perk slots, 1 unique one, and 3 generic ones. The unique ones are a non-issue for me. You unlock all unique perks for a character just by playing them. They tend to offer some sort of boost, or change to one of your character’s attacks, but since you can see your opponent’s perk choices before a game, they’re not a big deal.

The generic perks are where I have a problem, not because of what they do, but because of how you acquire them. They tend to offer small buffs to both you and your teammate. As an example, one gives you an additional third jump in the air after you connect a hit. If you and your teammate stack the same buff, you get a better version it. For example, the aforementioned jump perk when stacked just lets you and your teammate have a third jump always available.

But anyway, this isn’t the problem with perks. The problem is that there’s a limited pool of perks you unlock for each character. Then you have to spend gold to unlock the rest, and you have to unlock them on a character by character basis. It’s like a worse version of League of Legends’ old rune system.

The gameplay itself, though, is what carries MultiVersus. And while I might not be a big fighting game person, the friend I played most of my 30 hours with is. To paraphrase his thoughts, while the game is very focused around hitstun and combos, it doesn’t feel super toxic. There’s also a larger focus on mobility, and to quote him directly “The lack of the homogenization of the trinity (grab/shield/stun) and the presence of charged aerials is a significant shift from other platform fighters.”

Personally, I just think smacking folks around in the game feels fun, and even as someone who sucks at fighting, the matchmaking has yet to throw me into a game that I felt like I couldn’t possibly win.

Speaking of matchmaking, let’s talk about the other part of online play: netcode. MultiVersus has some issues, but overall the netcode is far better than, say, Smash Bros online. There are still situations where it feels like your inputs are dropped, but it’s fairly rare.

Overall, MultiVersus is an incredibly fun F2P platform fighter, with a strong (if small roster), and solid mechanics. While it doesn’t commit any special sins of being a F2P game, I feel like it would be better if you could just buy the whole game instead of being hit with the traditional spending traps. That said, I might not have tried it if it cost $40, and that would have been a shame, because I would have missed out on one of the very few games to even try to give Smash Bros a run for its money.

MultiVersus is free to play on PC, PS4/5, Xbox One, and Xbox S.

To preempt the question from the one person I know who will read this article: it’s not available for Switch, and it’s not clear if it will be. Just go grab it for PC. C’mon, it’ll be fun!

Fore Score

Fore Score is a multiplayer minigolf game where you and your fellow players build out the hole by placing extra obstacles and items onto it. If you’ve ever played Ultimate Chicken Horse, the concept will seem pretty familiar. You start with a simple and plain course. After each round you and your friends are given a selection of objects to choose from, and then you place them to make the course harder.

I like a lot about Fore Score in theory, but in practice I have quite a few problems with it. There’s no single thing it does wrong, but none of its mechanics feel super satisfying. I also have problems with the game’s other systems.

Good luck ever making this shot without being ground up by the buzz saw.

Let’s start with the simplest one: the minigolf. Fore Score uses a 2.5d view for most of the golf, and you can’t apply any direct level of lift to the ball when you hit it. However, many obstacles are 3D, or launch the ball into the air. This makes it a sort of awkward hybrid of the two perspectives. The camera is also permanently locked, which again, makes judging certain shots very hard.

Why is the camera permanently locked? Well, it might be because the game doesn’t offer actual networked multiplayer. Instead, everything is a form of couch co-op. The game does support Steam Remote Play, which I have mixed feelings on. On the one hand, it means only person has to own the game. On the other hand, if you aren’t the host, you better hope your connection to the host is stable, or you might miss the critical shot. Because of that limitation, it makes sense that the game wouldn’t want to let every player randomly rotate the camera for everyone whenever they want. If nothing else it would make obstacle placement a confusing mess.

The only good way to describe the obstacles is ‘mediocre.’ There are several obstacles that are just reskins of each other, and boring reskins at that. Of the remaining ones, there just aren’t that many. There are several that will kill your ball and force a respawn with hitboxes that probably aren’t wrong, but are difficult to judge because of the 2.5d view.

There are a variety of blocks similar to the domino block in that they just fill two squares, and don’t do too much else.

Fore Score isn’t unfun, it’s just not as good a golf game as Golf With Your Friends, or as much of a route-builder as Ultimate Chicken Horse. If a game is going to stick with my friend group, it needs to either offer something unique, or be better than other stuff we already play. And Fore Score doesn’t succeed at that.

With that said, there have been some quality of life patches, so perhaps it will get better. If you’re still interested, you can find it here on Steam, and an early alpha here on itch.io.

Garfield Kart – Furious Racing

Ed Note: We’re working to capture some images of the game, but my ultrawide doesn’t really work well, and the existing press kit images aren’t from the PC release! So those will be up on this writeup later this week.

The bar for franchised game tie-ins is a moving target, but it’s rarely above sea level. Often, it spends time in the Mariana Trench. I’m lucky in that the franchises I love started as games, so the games are usually pretty good (or in the case of Pok√©mon, “Yes, it’s the same thing, but I bought it and it was okay the last 5 times so I guess I’ll do it again.”)

There are exceptions, of course, coughMagic:Legendscough but on the whole, I don’t actually play many games based on “Things I liked when they weren’t games.” I’m much more likely to buy a shirt because you wrote Undertale on it in comic sans, than I am to buy a game because it has LeBron James, or Rick and Morty in it.

All of this is a lead up to say that my expectations for Garfield Kart – Furious Racing were low. Very low. And while the game does exceed my expectations, the fact that it doesn’t crash constantly and runs on my Ultrawide monitor at all is already miles above what I expecting. My expectations were right next to the funny looking fish with the glowing bulb attached to its head.

Garfield Kart – Furious Racing is a a cart racer based off the Garfield comic strip: the fat orange cat who hates Mondays, loves lasagna, and made its creator Jim Davis a fortune. As a child, I actually liked Garfield if only because a cartoon where the cat actually wins made me happy. A a teenager I thought it was incredibly stupid, and not actually funny. But a stronger understanding of how syndication works, and how easy it is for a comic strip to get kicked from a paper at least makes me respect the effort it must take to tell 20+ years of mildly inoffensive “jokes” and not upset anyone.

Anyway, the theming is skin deep. Garfield Kart is fairly straightforward cart racer. If you’ve ever played any Mario Kart, you’ll pick it up quickly. If you haven’t played any Mario Kart, well, it’s a cart racer, so you’ll pick it up in like 5 minutes tops anyway.

Mechanically, Garfield Kart isn’t hugely technical. Press a button to go forward, toggle your drifts on curves to get a mini-turbo, and hit item boxes for consumables. The consumables range from a lasagna (a single use speed boost), to two variety of pies you can throw at your enemy (one type homes, the other type you have to aim). And it wouldn’t be Mario Kart without an item to royally screw the first place player. In Garfield Kart, that’s the UFO: a trio of three alien spaceships that fly ahead on the course, lay down tractor beams, and grab the first person to pass through.

Strangely enough, the UFO is fairly good for illustrating perhaps my biggest gameplay gripe with the game. Once a player ends up in first place, it’s incredibly difficult to catch them. A lot of the speed loss in Garfield Kart comes from crashing into other carts, and once you get ahead, it’s incredibly easy to just chain mini-turbos. And because of how item rolls work, it’s unlikely that the second place player will get the red shells homing pies they need to close the gap.

Outside of that, we have the actual racing tracks. Garfield Kart has 16 tracks, all of which are fine. There’s a fair amount of asset reuse between them, but that’s not really a big deal to me.

What is a slightly bigger deal to me are the bugs. Garfield Kart is mostly stable, but has a fair number of bugs. In the 10 hours I’ve played, here’s a sampling of what I’ve seen: 1. Item display from item boxes not updating, and showing you as having an item after you’ve used it. 2. Cart collisions acting inconsistently. 3. Netcode resulting in other carts clipping into you, and launching you through the ground. 4. Hitting geometry at weird angles can easily result in carts getting stuck tilted up at 90 degrees, and unable to move. 5. AI getting permanently lodged on rocks.

Garfield Kart isn’t a bad game. It’s effectively just a low budget Mario Kart clone with a more boring theme, fewer tracks, and less polish. And while I would normally say “Just go play Mario Kart,” what sets Garfield Kart apart is its price point and system.

See, Garfield Kart regularly goes on sale for about a $1.50, a price at which you can buy 10 copies, send them to all your friends, and have an amusing cart racer to play with everyone for under $20. Compare to Mario Kart 8, which is $60 for the game alone, and another $50+ for each controller, and all of a sudden Garfield Kart is an absolute bargain.

So yes, while I do recommend Garfield Kart, it’s a conditional recommendation based on having 3-4 other folks to play it with, and spending about as much as a Snickers bar per person on the game itself.

Perfect Heist 2

I like Perfect Heist 2. It’s a fantastic asymmetric deception game about robbing, or preventing the robbing of banks. So does that mean the game is as perfect as its name implies? No. It has a lot of problems. But it’s fun, and that’s really all that matters.

Writing the intro paragraph for this article is an exercise in deciding what watch list I want to get placed on. Do I make the joke about how the game is unrealistic because you get punished for killing civilians as a cop? Do I talk about how I love games that let me lie my way to victory? Do I talk about how my favorite thing in games like Project Winter is convincing someone to work with me, only to bludgeon them to death in an enclosed space once they’re out of earshot of the rest of the group and no one can hear their cries for help?

Do I just make all of them?

Oh right, I’m supposed to be writing about a game.

Perfect Heist 2 is a multiplayer deception game about robbing banks. Players join either the robbers or police, with the robbers trying to get as much money out of the bank as possible, while the police try to stop them. If the robbers successfully extract a certain amount of money and make a successful escape, the robber team wins. If time runs out, or all the robbers are killed, the cops win.

You’ll note that I didn’t say, “If the robbers kill all the cops, the robbers win.” It’s technically true, but is incredibly rare. This is because Perfect Heist 2 isn’t a game about running and gunning; it’s a game about being sneaky.

In addition to the human players in a game, there are also dozens of AI-controlled civilians. They generally just meander about, and don’t do very much, but they provide the cover for the robbers to infiltrate the bank. However, there are some things the AI won’t do. They won’t ever sprint, they won’t ever pick up money, and they open doors.

Perhaps most importantly though, they’ll never go into areas they aren’t supposed to be in. There are two general types of AI units: bank employees and civilians. Both types have different clothing patterns, and wearing the wrong outfit for the area you’re in is a great way to get shot in the head.

As a general rule of thumb, cops have more damage mitigation, and better guns, which means that if you, as a robber, get into a fair fight with a cop, you’re likely going to lose.

Secondly, unlike robbers, when a cop dies, they just respawn. There’s a shared a pool of lives for the cop team, and a recently respawned cop now knows where you are and what you look like. Cops can’t just go trigger happy though, because if a cop kills a civilian AI even by mistake, the cop instantly dies and can’t respawn.

Team balance also influences the general sneakiness of the game. The police can never have more players than the robbers, and usually have 2-3 fewer members. As a result, the teams consist of a larger number of players with no individual respawns and generally weaker stats (robbers) against a smaller number of players, with superior firepower and respawns, but a heavy penalty for misusing them (cops).

So let’s talk about how you actually steal money. Maps in Perfect Heist consist of the bank, the area surrounding the bank, and a few generic buildings around the bank that can’t be entered. The bank is the interesting part though, as it contains vaults, where a majority of the gold and cash needed to win is kept, along with jewelry, and secret documents, all of which can also be picked up for cash.

There are also ATMs, which can be hacked once to drop money. While the vaults need to be either blown open with charges, or unlocked with various specific classes, the other valuables can usually just be grabbed, albeit with some risks. For example, jewelry is usually in glass cases, and the sound of breaking glass is great way to broadcast where you are to every cop in a 3 mile radius.

TLDR: there are valuables littered all round the bank, and different classes have advantages for going after various types.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about classes. There are a lot of classes, both for the cops and robbers. Each class has starting weapons, a passive, and an activated ability.

In terms of actual playability, classes vary pretty heavily. Some are straightforward, like the Demo who can carry explosives without them being visible, or the Tech who can open all vaults after hacking three computers, and has a drone that can carry money bags. Some offer alternative playstyles, like the Crypto-Enthusiast, who can hack computers to install crypto miners, and generate passive cash, or the Fed Chairman who can quite literally print money.

Others are situational, like the Sniper. And some are just bad, like the Pickpocket, or Safecracker. It’s a pretty even split between those four groups. There’s enough variety to keep things fun, but some classes just don’t really function.

The same is pretty much true for the cops. Classes like Riot Control and Spy offer straightforward and always-useful mechanics. IT is situational: useful against classes that want to hack computers or ATMs, but doesn’t do much otherwise. Fed Chairman (no, not a typo, both cops and robbers can use this class) can increase the amount of money robbers need to steal in order to win and offers an alternate playstyle. And then there’s the Digital Forensics officer who…. can see how long ago a computer was hacked. It’s pretty pointless.

I do think the classes are part of the reason why I enjoy Perfect Heist 2, though. The different playstyles and options available mean that you’re not locked into a single strategy, and you can switch between rounds if it feels like something isn’t working. It adds a lot of replayability, and there’s also some interesting synergies (though these synergies tend to be more in favor of the robbers than the cops).

With all that covered, let’s talk about what I don’t like about the game. First, the game options menu is practically non-existent. Resizing your screen is advanced technology, so I hope you like playing in permanent fullscreen forever. Second, game balance. As a general rule, the game feels balanced. HOWEVER, the way team selection works means that you can get locked into having two teams of the same players go against each other over and over, with one team just crushing the other. Finally, the guns. The guns kind of suck. They feel slow and laggy. Aiming down sight is buggy and doesn’t always actually aim down sight, and shooting without aiming down the sight results in firing bullets somewhere within an 180 degree radius of where you were pointed.

These aren’t deal breakers. Honestly, if I could change anything about the game, it would be to fix some of the bugs, clarify wording for mechanics for a few abilities, and fix the options menu. If they did all of that, the game would be fantastic, as opposed to the ‘pretty good’ it currently is.

If this sounds fun, and the issues don’t sound like deal breakers, you can grab Perfect Heist 2 for $10 on Steam.